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Slow Readers Club + October Drift

Friday 25th May 2018

Islington Assembly Hall, London

Remember the days when bands were bands and not something created through a TV so-called talent show? Well fear ye not, there is still hope! There are still bands out there who know how to play their instruments to create melodies you can hum to on the way to work. Bands that can still break into the top 20 album chart without Simon Cowell’s marketing machine pumping out synthetic Pop to the masses. Last Friday night at the Islington Assembly Rooms produced a very fine example of such bands. The Slow Readers Club were performing the penultimate show of a 14 venue national tour to support their new top 20 album ‘Build A Tower’, the third studio album from the Manchester 4 piece. Achieving a top 20 album is no mean feat. Little radio play, no major record label - the band’s success is built on a passionate fan base and smart use of social media to promote their wares.

Of course it helps that the product itself is rather very good! Their sound is driven by lead singer Aaron Starkie whose voice ranges from the deep baritone of the Editors to highs not dissimilar to Jimmy Sommerville (with the band coming on stage to ‘I Feel Love’ quite appropriate). The guitars of Kurtis Starkie generate depth through the use of picked, hand muted arpeggios creating a somewhat 80's Rock feel, but definitely with a 21st century ambience. Throw in some solid bass lines from Jim Ryan (a school teacher by trade), a steady beat from David Whitworth on drums topped off by some background synths to set the mood and you have the makings of an album of ‘earworms’. Probably no surprise that the band were nurtured in the creative atmosphere of Manchester and got their big break in 2016 supporting James on their tour, partly after performing an acoustic version of ‘I saw a ghost’ in the Manchester Central Library. It is a spine tingling song and the acoustics in the library are amazing, well worth checking out on YouTube.

The Islington show was kicked off by another band with some influences from another age. October Drift come from Taunton in Somerset and if energy and hard work create success, then these guys deserve it! They bounced around the stage and physically attack their instruments to produce a wall of sound. Kiran Roy, the lead singer was soon bare-chested covered in sweat as he belts out their adrenaline driven sound, from every part of the stage and from various locations in the audience! The band have been relentlessly touring the UK and Europe supporting acts such as the Editors as well as the SRC. They play Camden Rocks this weekend (The Hawley Arms at 5.15pm) with their own headline tour later this year. They are busy setting up their own recording studio so expect more energy exploding out of speakers near you soon.

Fans of the SRC are almost evangelical in their support of the band, placing the new album in more prominent positions on the shelves in HMV, encouraging friends and relatives to listen to the music and in an almost football crowd way, chanting ‘Readers, Readers’ to encourage the band onto the stage. Aaron thanks the crowd and asks how many are seeing them for the first time – and it is no real surprise that the newbies are in the minority! The set is opened with the opening track from the new album – 'Lunatic' and the crowd are soon bouncing along, some swaying, some more energetically. Something pretty close to a ‘mosh pit’ soon forms with arms waving and eventually bodies raised onto shoulders to get closer to the band. And this admiration is clearly appreciated by the performers with selfies taken by both groups to be posted on the Facebook page later (over 25,000 likes now and the band frequently participate in the group chat). The set list continues with a mix of songs from all three albums, but the biggest buzz of the night goes to the new track ‘On The TV’ which has a very catchy jangly melody and has the crowd singing along, so much so, that crowd power continues the song after the band had finished, with the band relenting and joining back in for another refrain!

Deciding not to bother with actually leaving the stage for the pantomime of being demanded back for an encore, as that is, and I quote "bollocks!" The band just carry on playing which goes down well with the crowd. The last song is ‘Distant Memory’ which seems quite appropriate in the Edwardian setting of Islington Town Hall in all its historic splendour. For me though, the best thing the Slow Readers achieve, however, is through their music, to take you back into your own thoughts – where music means something very personal and creates individual memories. And that hasn’t happened to me since the time when bands were bands!

Chris Bourlet

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